FAIRMONT – Feet fluttered across the stage floor of Fairmont State University’s Falcon Center Saturday as five pairs of dancers showed off the moves they have been working on for the past four months.
But in the end, it was the “Greased Lightnin’” that struck the stage with the team of Alex Petry and Stephanie Pethtel taking home first place in both Judges’ Choice and the People’s Choice in 2019’s Dancing With the Stars.
“It was very fulfilling for me to give back to this great community,” Petry said after the event.
Saturday evening was the seventh season of Marion County’s Dancing With the Stars, an event hosted by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties created to raise money for the annual United Way Campaign.
Each year, the teams, made up of local Marion County officials and business owners, team up with a choreographer to rehearse a dance routine for the October extravaganza, while also raising money along the way for the cause. Over time, the event has become the biggest event in Marion County, with a sellout crowd of 650 people this year.
“This is the second-largest year ever,” said Brett White, executive director of the United Way. “The hit is always the stars; I think Alex and Stephanie certainly taking home both first places was a real honor for them.”
According to White, this year’s season was the second largest in terms of money raised, with more than $75,000 raised by the five teams of dancers this year. It is second to last year, but possibly because there were only five teams this season rather than the usual six.
Either way, the event is a huge boost to the campaign, especially this year, seeing as the goal is $500,000. However, this was another landmark year, as White announced to the crowd.
“It’s huge, it’s huge,” White said. “This was the first time ever where every couple raised over $10,000.”
Along with the local stars, the event also had a celebrity judge present: America’s Got Talent Winner and Logan County Native Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., who gave each team his remarks and closed out the dancing by performing a song for the audience.
While Petry and Pethtel’s team was first in fundraising with a total of $17,600 by the end of the night, the winner could have gone in another direction with the team of Joey Garcia and Heather Ayers taking the lead over Petry and Pethtel several times over the course of the campaign and even the night of the event.
“This was the closest year ever,” said Tina Shaw, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The other teams included Frank Sutton and Ashley Knight, Shawn Linger and Donna Trickett, and Drew Cameon and Alura Holbert, who all performed at the event.
Cameon and Holbert took home second place in Judges’ Choice with their costume changes into different golden garbs, while Trickett and Linger earned 10s from two judges with their country-rock stepping.
Following each dance, the team discussed their experience with the dancing and the fundraising, with everyone commenting that although they were nervous, they did it for the United Way.
Just as in the television version of the show, the dancers in Marion County’s Dancing With the Stars seldom have dance experience, and they learn basically from scratch beginning in June. However, their hard work pays off as evidenced by the crowd of cheering people and high ranks in scores from the judges.
“These couples work so hard for five months practicing their dancing and raising their money and putting things together,” White said.
But with this season over, that means there are only about eight months left until the next season, so the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce will soon begin their search for new contestants.
Although he was completely new to dancing, Petry recommended anyone try out the event, because in the end, it is all for a good cause.
“I had a blast,” Petry said. “It was really fun.”